At Redspire, we’re passionate about all things CRM. That’s why we decided to create this guide to choosing and implementing CRM software.

As we believe Microsoft Dynamics CRM to be the best CRM, we often reference it throughout this article – however, feel free to apply this best practice to any CRM of your liking.

How to Spot When it’s Time to Upgrade Your CRM

Do you constantly feel that you’re the last to know about the status of a lead? Is there poor alignment between departments? Is your CRM the last place you go for access to key info? Is your CRM nothing more than a glorified spreadsheet? If so, you may be limited by a legacy technology that’s holding back your business – and your bottom line.

Don’t labour under the impression that sticking to aging equipment is the best solution, especially if it begins to affect productivity. This is why we have put together this guide to try and help you identify whether your CRM is still up to the job, or whether it is actually time to look elsewhere.

  • Are You Doing More Than You Need To?
  • Do you constantly find yourself having to build complex solutions for, what should be, simple problems? Workarounds are, generally speaking, inventive ways of overcoming software deficiencies.

    How long can you work against the grain to combat something lacking within your CRM? It could be adding valuable man hours to tasks, which could be best used elsewhere. Take a step back and assess, how much time an older CRM is costing you. If you find yourself working against your technology more than with it, it may be time to start looking for a new solution.

  • Communicating outside
  • For example, are you spending too much time communicating outside of your CRM? The amount of time you spend adding the information you’ve gleaned from your communications into your CRM manually is wasted time.

    Most modern CRMs automatically archive conversations, meaning that you’re free to move on to more important tasks more quickly. Your CRM should act like a hub, pulling in all forms of communication effortlessly.

  • Creating your own workarounds
  • If you begin spending more time using in house or niche solutions because your CRM lacks sufficient features you may well benefit from looking at upgrading. If this is the case your CRM isn’t saving you time, as it should be, it’s simply over complicating the way you work. The number of features found in modern CRM, even the most vanilla CRM, is huge. Companies such as Microsoft are even offering stores with additional extensions to prolong the life of their CRMs and boost functionality.

  • Support Network
  • Being committed to CRM, suggests a commitment to the customer, after all it’s in the name.
    Whether that means providing additional training, support or keeping you informed on the latest updates. Ask yourself; are you getting the best possible service from your supplier?

  • Low user adoption
  • Traditional thought would leave you to think that, with poor user adoption you may want to retire your CRM altogether, but it may be the CRM itself which needs altering. The problems of an unnecessarily complicated or unfamiliar CRM won’t go away, even with additional training, staff could still resent the tech.

    A solution can be to upgrade to a CRM that shares an interface with common software already in use within the company. For those familiar with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Dynamics CRM shares a UI and many operations with the Office suite, meaning users should be more engaged with it.

  • Updates
  • Is your current CRM still supported with regular technical updates? Even if you find that your system still runs well, there comes a point when a lack of updates and maintenance to the CRM will cause it to become redundant.

  • The Cloud
  • For many organisations, cloud computing has become vital. Does your current CRM store data on the cloud? Ask yourself whether the work you are doing could benefit from a cloud CRM.

    What does the cloud CRM offer?

    • Mobility – Perhaps most importantly using a cloud CRM offers up the opportunity to sell on the go. Any device with an internet connection can access your database anywhere.
    • Peace of Mind – As contradictory as it may appear, storing your data off-site at a data centre rather than on-site, is actually a safer solution. Data centres specialise in data security both logically and physically. They also offer significant redundancies in case of emergency.


  • Social media
  • Are your social media platforms being run independently of your CRM? Marketers underestimate the amount of information they can glean from social media. If you’re not running them in conjunction because your CRM software is incapable of doing so, you may well need to upgrade.

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been focusing heavily on the social side of their CRM system implementing social features to help rearrange the data into a meaningful way. All of this is within the CRM so you aren’t using disparate sources for your data.

  • Unable To Keep Up
  • Are your competitors speeding ahead of you? Using the most up to date software gives your competitors a real edge, can you really afford to let them get away?

    Lead scoring is a feature embedded in most modern CRMs that helps you target leads and prospects more effectively. Lead scoring helps both marketing and sales judge when to pass on a lead to sales and to make a pitch. Having a more concrete way of judging where leads are within your funnel gives your competitors an added advantage. Don’t be left behind using workarounds while your competitors beat you to your leads.

    Lead source is another important function of modern CRMs, which helps measure your marketing departments ROI more effectively. It helps your marketing team recreate successful campaigns, but also externally allows more senior staff to help dictate how new campaigns should work.

    The ability to measure lead source and lead score, these are crucial features which give marketing teams a massive edge in terms of campaign creation.

  • Very little strategic selling
  • If your sales team are selling on an ad-hoc basis this could be down to an ineffective CRM. Use of a comprehensive system should allow you to forecast and plan ahead, so if your sales team are not working in accordance to this, they’re not working as effectively as possible.

    A strategic selling is helped greatly by a CRM that can provide reminders to call certain leads in line with a particular cadence.

    How to… Choose a CRM That’s Right for Your Business

    Make your working life easier

    If you’re considering investing in a new CRM, you are doing so to make your working life easier. A CRM system can indeed simplify many aspects of your business. The correct CRM will: automate time-consuming and laborious tasks, provide a one-stop shop for key metric data and allow you to maintain ever-changing, detailed customer information.

    The unification of this information allows for previously unseen comparisons to be made. An alternative look at your figures can highlight excesses and subsequently inspire new cost cutting measures. The correct system can save you time and money, but a bad decision could cause an unnecessarily long crossover period and added complication. Which is why you must…

    Research thoroughly

    Take the time to research the suppliers of the system that interests you the most. Learning about CRM vendors is essential. You’re implementing a CRM, in part, to improve customer service so get to know their customer service.

    How much support do they provide before, during and after implementation? Is on-going training available? Are they willing to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision? The more research and interaction you take part in, the more satisfied you’re likely to be when you finally do adopt.

    Consider familiarity & integration

    There is no denying that switching systems is a big and possibly disruptive move. To ease this burden as much as possible, look to choose a system that your business is most familiar with. Consider what software your business relies on and choose a CRM which aligns itself with it. Increased familiarity can shorten the period of adoption needed by your staff.

    For example, Microsoft Dynamics shares the same interface as the Office range, which could benefit companies reliant on the Office package, allowing them to adopt the system more quickly. Familiarity is likely to boost user adoption, if you have spent money implementing the technology, you want your staff to use it. Once again the correct supplier is crucial; while familiarity is beneficial, the support provided by the supplier is imperative.

    Make it future-proof

    Ensure that the system you choose will be customisable, not only for your current needs but your future. Thinking long term is key when adopting any new technology let alone a new CRM. You undoubtedly aim to grow your business so make sure that your CRM can grow too.

    Regular updates and customisability are often good indicators of a system that’s in tune with the constantly evolving business world.

    How to Choose a Secure CRM

    1. Transparency
    2. How transparent is your potential vendor? Are they forthcoming with the answers to your questions? What’s more, are they willing to explain where your data will be stored?

      Microsoft prides themselves in their transparent approach – and any Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer knows exactly where their data is stored. This knowledge extends to both the primary and back-up locations for their centres.

    3. Privacy
    4. It’s your data – and you should be able to limit who has access to it. Is your current CRM provider scanning your emails or data mining in order to advertise more effectively? How would you know? And would they tell you if they were?

      Microsoft guarantees complete privacy when hosting your data and do not use these details to advertising or analytical purposes.

      Be sure to speak with your provider about your data being ring-fenced. Even in a public cloud, your database should be kept separate from others to minimise any mingling or cross-contamination.

    5. Industry Standard Security
    6. Is your CRM and its parent company in line with industry standards? Data protection is of vital importance and it’s worth finding out if your cloud CRM provider conforms to the International Safe Harbor Privacy Policy. This is of particular importance to companies that work in both the EU and the US; security levels are higher in the EU so, to maintain this standard, US data centres have to opt in and become verified.

      How long has the company you’re dealing with been in business? Microsoft has been offering secure online data storage for 15 years and remains at the forefront of this everincreasingly sophisticated technology.

      Data centres are known for being highly secure buildings, requiring extensive identification to gain access to them from the outside. But what about from the inside? Does everybody within the organisation have access to your data? Do you want everyone to?

      Microsoft has a series of restrictions in place to allow only a select few operational personnel into their server rooms. Digital security on such a large and important scale should be proactive not reactive, which is why the more forward thinking CRM cloud providers are those that search for issues before they even arise.

    7. Redundancy
    8. Another face of security is redundancy; you need to know that, in the unlikely event of equipment failure or blackout, you can rest easy. Microsoft data centres are state of the art with backup facilities not only for data but also prevention against a smorgasbord of environmental disasters. What’s more, sophisticated data centres have excellent internal climate control to allow their hardware to work optimally for as long as possible.

    How to Choose Between ‘Off the Shelf’ and Bespoke CRM Systems

    The beauty of modern CRM systems lies in the huge level of customisation available from them. It goes without saying that even the most vanilla CRM offers massive functionality but their true value isn’t unlocked until you start to bring it in line with your own business requirements.

    Some of the major CRM platforms have built up a following from third party developers to increase functionality and ease of use. Microsoft Dynamics has a store dedicated to a range of free and paid additions that can greatly boost the functionality of the system. The decision is all about realising your own objectives and needs – then customising your CRM to realise them.

    1. Speed
    2. How quickly do you need your CRM in place? For some, the only answer is ‘immediately’ whilst others have more time to ensure things are done to their specifications or in line with other contracts they have in place.

      If you want a bespoke system, it’s likely that you’re going to have to allocate more time to get the implementation done correctly. We have been known to spend weeks, even months, working on bespoke setups to ensure that our client’s specific needs have been met and their CRM is aligned with their business processes. Conversely, an off the shelf version of Microsoft Dynamics could be implemented within days.

    3. Cost
    4. Of course, with more customisation comes higher cost. We pride ourselves in the transparency of our cost plans with each of our four solutions offer varying levels of customisation and competitive pricing. We’re also upfront about our day rate, meaning that if any of the solutions don’t completely suit your needs then we can design a package around your requirements.

      But if budget is a major factor when it comes to CRM, not only is Microsoft Dynamics’ default software more than suitable for the majority of organisations, there is always the ability to update and customise your CRM at a later date.

    5. In-house ability
    6. Survey how skilled your in-house staff currently are and plan accordingly. Our larger packages include significant levels of training to help bring your staff in line.

      If your in-house team are already experts in the CRM field, using the basic package may be sufficient as they may already be well versed in workarounds and solutions to more bespoke products.

      If you’re only just entering the world of CRM and your staff lack the required expertise to make the most of the new system, opting for a larger package isn’t necessary – despite the depth of training provided. We can create packages with more basic systems but with enough training to get everyone up to scratch and capable efficient CRM use.

    7. Identify your needs
    8. The flexibility of our consultancy approach means that you can choose what would best suit your needs – and when.

      • Do you need support in identifying improvements?
      • Require additional training?
      • Need help to develop assets or customise workflows?

      Redspire can support you in this all-important audit – from understanding your strengths and weaknesses to putting together a plan to move forward.


    Implementation Success with Microsoft Dynamics

    There are many benefits to be had from using Microsoft Dynamics; not only is it a cost effective tool but also forward-thinking and continually updating. The key to maximising its effectiveness begins at the implementation stage. The implementation phase should be coordinated to ensure that all potential kinks are worked out before full roll out.

    Assess Your Needs

    Make sure you know why you’re looking for a new CRM? Is your old CRM simply not up to the task anymore? This isn’t much of a surprise in the past few years; both the trends and technology that underlie CRM systems has changed drastically.

    Both social media integration and use of the cloud are now necessary features of CRMs whilst, as little as five years ago, this wasn’t even a consideration. Microsoft Dynamics’ integration of InsideView means that you have access to your customers’ social media streams embedded within the existing data you have. Having this real time information helps to formulate more personal marketing campaigns and content, ensuring better engagement.

    The standardisation of cloud computing (and the need for businesses to make this a key consideration with regards to how they work) has also seen a shift in the way CRMs are used.

    Microsoft are investing heavily in its cloud technology department to ensure that it remains at the forefront of the sector. From a business perspective, it is encouraging to see such investment from Microsoft; having chosen Dynamics as your CRM means that you can rest assured, knowing that Microsoft will continue to update and invest in their products to keep their clients ahead of the curve.

    Supplier Choice

    Possibly the most important aspect of implementation is finding the right supplier. This will play a massive part in how successful your implementation of Microsoft Dynamics is. It will affect how quickly you hit the ground running, so to speak, and in turn improve the speed in which you see your ROI.

    The correct supplier should be willing to afford you as much or as little help as you need. Even before any software is installed and training is received, the right supplier should help you to outline what your business objectives are.

    With this information, the right supplier should create a bespoke implementation scheme to allow you to reach these business objectives as easily – and quickly – as possible. This should include as standard the Sure Step Methodology, Microsoft’s best practice guidelines to Dynamics implementation – although many of the more thorough suppliers will go a step further.

    To further refine the implementation process, Redspire includes the TrueFIT journey, which places your business objectives at the heart of the process and builds the implementation around it.


    Staff training is the crux of the whole implementation process; done incorrectly and you are left with an expensive piece of kit that very few in the business can use effectively. Even if your team is quite familiar with CRM systems, the speed of advancement in this technology may mean that additional and more tailored training is necessary.

    The training should be unique to your business and its needs. It should include training sessions for staff well before anything is installed, to minimise crossover period once Dynamics is set up.

    Importantly, training sessions should be interactive; that is to say, make sure those being trained are able to use Microsoft Dynamics as they go along rather than merely observing the instructor.

    Interactive training such as this will shorten the time it takes for all users to successfully adopt the program.
    The advantage of providing training before any physical implementation means that you can take staff considerations on board, things can be altered and improved with more ease than post implementation.


    Your supplier should have already helped you to devise a strategy – but it doesn’t end there; a strategy needs to be worked on in house as well as with your supplier.

    To make sure Microsoft Dynamics is doing the most it can for you, you have to ensure that you have cross-departmental buy-in. Your supplier can advise you of this, but only you can really implement it, ensuring that the whole company buy into the idea – otherwise your CRM use will be somewhat maimed.

    An interesting and effective way to do this is to create a CRM implementation team consisting of individuals from all the departments who will be directly involved with it. This will give each department a say in what CRM customisations and considerations would be beneficial for them.

    Following this best practice advice should ensure that you are successful in your implementation campaign and therefore can use CRM efficiently and effectively.

    Top Tips to Guarantee ROI on Your CRM Purchase

    For most companies, the numbers are all that matter; everything needs to be accounted for and everything needs to prove to a substantial ROI. Starting from this point of view is a large reason as to why many companies have looked away from CRMs as means of improving their company profits, believing it to make a negative impact on their bottom line.

    But this needn’t be the case. In fact, CRM can actively boost your bottom line. All it takes is a little know-how…

    Used correctly, a CRM is easily capable being beneficial to your company, quickly proving its ROI and going on to create profit. Certain key points need to be considered however to ensure that your
    CRM quickly creates a return.

    • Understand the CRM
    • Understanding your CRM is the first port of call to ensure that you guarantee ROI. This means many things from the importance of training your staff correctly to understanding the concept behind a CRM.

      For many, a CRM is just one thing; a database to store contacts, but to view it this way is to miss the point. You have to understand that a CRM is a business-wide concept as much as it is a technology, unifying your company and creating harmony. The most up to date CRMs out there are providing ways so that everyone in your company can benefit from having this kit.

      From small things which integrate receptionist and admin staff, having access to office calendars for planned meetings can help them swiftly book meeting rooms and be ahead of the game. To larger things such as the ability for Marketers to research and create marketing campaigns almost entirely within a CRM, there is a lot on offer.

    • User Adoption
    • Secondly, no matter how much a company and its employees buy into the concept of a CRM without the correct training it won’t matter.

      User adoption is paramount to ensuring ROI and the best way to guarantee user adoption is to train your staff accordingly. Make sure that everyone is competent on the software before it is rolled out.

      For those who are already well versed, consider some specialised or advanced training on the kit. There are plenty of training providers out there, specialising in all sorts of niche subject matters concerning CRM.

    • Be Social
    • Social media use is obligatory in this day and age, where once a customer may have rang the customer support line, now they choose to contact the company through their social networks.

      They’re often the first place potential customers go to scope out details regarding companies and their services. Modern CRMs have begun to integrate these channels within their software.

      Just because social media is still deemed a relatively informal platform, people who complain through it still expect speedy and formal resolution. In fact it is in your best interest to do so, unlike a phone call made in private, posting on a social media page can be visible to all and have a knock on effect with other customers. Luckily a linked up CRM can notify you quickly of any issues, and store the data of the complaint to your lead’s history on your CRM, so you know how to approach future communications.

    • Measure Metrics
    • A CRM turns your sales funnel to glass, giving your company transparent access to where each and every one of your leads are within it, but also where they joined. Such information is of vital importance to marketing teams, measuring lead source helps give a better picture of how effective certain marketing campaigns are.

      You can take this further by introducing lead scoring and help track leads more effectively to give Sales a fighting chance of closing more leads. Combining your marketing and sales team to curate their lead scoring efforts meaning they agree on the definitions.

    • Go Mobile
    • A recent study suggested that adopting a mobile CRM could improve staff productivity by as much as 25%. It’s becoming the norm that people want the same level of connectivity from employees out of the office as those in-house.

      Mobile sales reps are more likely to close deals if they have access to the same data as those in the office. Not only can the rep continue their research on the way to the meeting, they can show the client important information without having to lug a heavy laptop along with them on every occasion.

    How to Avoid CRM Implementation Failure

    The high failure rate of CRM implementations is often highlighted. Yet the overarching reason for this typically lies with poor implementation methods and suppliers rather than some innate flaw surrounding CRM. The key is finding the correct method (and supplier) that would suit your business and propel it to the next level.

    If you’re in two minds about CRM or still in the early phases of the implementation process, it’s worth reading the following content and researching further.

    It’s a massive gamble to purchase a CRM without a competent supplier or well-considered strategy behind it; think of the financial hit of half implementing a CRM and then having to back track or, worse, simply not being able to use it at all. Conversely, think of the attractive ROI from a fully implemented, fully functional CRM with a supportive provider behind it.

    Identify the possible reasons for failure

    If you’re aware of what the pitfalls are, you’re in a much better position to avoid them…

    1. The wrong vendor
    2. Even at the right price, the wrong vendor is still the wrong vendor. It’s true, if you’ve paid less for a CRM that fails, you’ve physically lost less money but you’ve also not got a CRM.

    3. The wrong CRM
    4. There is a huge stream of CRMs out there and, as with any technology, it’s essential that you take the time to identify the one that best suits your needs, objectives and, of course, budget.

    5. Unclear objectives
    6. Without a clear journey and destination, how do you know where to take a CRM? Many CRM failures can be attributed to muddled objectives between departments and a failure to work together.


    Ways to overcome failure

    Having covered some of the main reasons why CRM implementations fail, we move on to the important aspect; how to make them work. The proceeding points are not a complete failsafe but will hold you in good stead when you execute your CRM.

    1. Research thoroughly
    2. As we mentioned, the wrong vendor and the wrong CRM play a large part in the downfall of CRM projects. The best way to overcome these is to research both completely. There is no excuse really, you’re about to spend a significant amount of money on software, you want to know you’re getting the right thing for you.

      Identify the right CRM for you. You will find that most CRM providers offer 30 day trials, use these to gain a feel for the platform. Factor in things like UI and UX. Also the complexity required to do simple tasks, which is measured in clicks to get desired effects, on the face of it this is pretty innocuous but multiplied thousands of times the time wasted on clicks adds up.

      Once you’re clear on what you want from CRM and have chosen the right one for you, seek out the correct supplier. Suppliers are possibly more important than the software itself, a good supplier will help you refine what you need from the kit and help implement it in a realistic time frame. They should be able to find oversights in your thinking and stop you from causing your own downfall. Search for things like partnerships and accreditations to ensure that your potential supplier has the required knowledge base.

    3. Unify departments to create your strategy
    4. An innate advantage of using a CRM is its ability to unite departments within your company but this should begin before you implement it. Organise a meeting to get your departments together and decide the objectives wanted from a CRM, decide how you will measure lead scoring so that both Marketing and Sales are happy. Decide who in the customer support team will be in charge of which complaints or queries. Planning ahead in this way lets people know what their role will be once it’s in place.

    5. Train your staff
    6. The right supplier should be able to help you here, but it needs to be touched upon in advance. Training is the most fundamental element of the adoption process, without the correctly trained staff supporting operations your CRM is useless. Assess skill levels between staff members and observe discrepancies from there, with the help of your supplier, plan an effective training regime to get the most of your staff.

    7. Think long term
    8. Don’t expect too much instantly, a CRM won’t provide all the answers in the short term. It’s a long haul solution which will require work to perfect. Implement things in phases but with a clear outline of where you want to be in the future. Once again working in collaboration with your CRM supplier and consultant, you should create this pipeline prior to the actual implementation of the CRM.

    Much of what is crucial to the deployment of the CRM must take place before any actual software is installed on company computers. A lot of companies fail to take this on board, rushing headlong into a CRM and hoping it all works out. As with most things prevention and preparation are better than reparation.